EU leaders at a 60-nation trade summit in Chile over the weekend said European businesses are sometimes subject to legal uncertainties in Latin American and Caribbean countries.“We’re seeing an increase in Latin American investment in Europe, where they are most welcome. Both sides need to provide legal certainty to companies investing in our economies,” said European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday (27 January), reports the AP.
With some €385 billion invested in 2010, the EU remains the continent’s largest leading foreign investor – higher than EU foreign direct investment in Russia, China and India combined, says the commission.
Among the EU delegation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the steady growth projections in Latin America would benefit the EU’s debt-ridden member states.
“The most important thing for countries here is that they have the impression that we in the eurozone are overcoming the crisis together, and not leaving some countries hanging,” said Merkel.
The EU concerns stem in part from the Argentinian state take-over last April of oil firm YPF from its parent, Spanish-owned Respol.
EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht at the time instructed the EU delegation in Geneva to file a legal complaint at the World Trade Organisation on alleged Argentine protectionism.
Aside from creating a sound business legal framework at the two-day summit, the EU delegation also pushed to lower trade barriers and set-up a free-trade pact.
The EU managed to signed off a series of trade agreements with Peru and Colombia as well as an association agreement with Central America. The signed agreements will come into force shortly, said Barroso.
But reactions to a number of the EU’s requests were mixed.
The Latin bloc said the EU’s highly subsidised agricultural sector is forcing out international competition.
Bolivian President Evo Morales also rejected the EU demand for profit guarantees in a country that is now a major recipient of EU development funding.
The Bolivian leader said access to basic services like water and electricity belongs to the mostly rural indigenous poor and not large-foreign owned corporations.
Argentina’s president Cristina Fernandez said she couldn’t agree to deals that would create unfair competition for home-based businesses for the sake of EU interests.
“We have to prevent and consider these asymmetries, to avoid hurting our industries and, above all, our people,” she tweeted.